Does anyone remember the comments of George Lucas (of 'Star Wars' fame) concerning the "new church"? It's the movie theatre.
I believe his comment is accurate. In another century, people went to their house of worship and attended as an escape, an answer to problems, a place to gather wisdom and apply it to their lives. Now people harness the movie theatre for the same reason. The 'movie theatre' is any place movies are viewed as a sacred space - your home, the theatre itself, online. As long as it maintains your full attention; you're not cleaning house while watching, say, "American Beauty". Brad Bird, in his post-Oscar interview for the press, called for a return to the "cathedral of the movie theatre". In this comment, he excludes home theatre because he wants the movie experience to be within a community of people. But I'm talking about movie-viewing not as a community experience but strictly as a worship experience.
In many ways, this new form of worship is a comfort. 'Good' Movies (There's a lot of subjectivity here, but suffice it to say that a 'good' movie garners positive meritocratic opinion by people concerned with story construction. That is, people who look at the plausibility and impact of the story regardless of the content.) allow us to see and experience things despite our level of caution or recklessness. They help us develop emotional intelligence; a way to see from other points-of-view and extrapolate feelings that aren't ours. But I think this only works when we have a foundational belief template in place. When this template is absent I think the damage to a person is extensive in proportion to the amount of belief template absent.
In our melting pot and, thankfully, our semi-free govenmental endorsement on religion we have the ability to choose this belief template. But powerful cultural forces - namely movies - write some of the rules for these choices as well. Let's just say they curve the belief tendencies towards a certain pattern that I don't think is necessarily healthy.
I probably love raw storytelling as an art more than movies, but I love movies as they encompass the best storytelling culture currently has to offer. But I think movies, in a word, have become too influential.